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Democrats Like Their Chances of Holding the Senate

Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is among the Senate candidates speaking at the Democratic National Convention this week. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is among the Senate candidates speaking at the Democratic National Convention this week. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee believes it is in a better position today than it was at the beginning of the cycle, when the lopsided number of Senate seats the party was tasked with defending in battleground states put its 53-47 majority in jeopardy.

“Relative to where we started the cycle in January of last year, we’ve made significant improvement in our chances of holding on to the Senate,” DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil said today in an off-camera briefing with reporters at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Cecil said Democrats are in a stronger position because of the quality of candidates they recruited, the fundraising of the DSCC and those candidates, and Republicans nominating candidates that the DSCC believes put a few states on the map that otherwise might be out of reach.

In an interview with Roll Call later in the day, DSCC Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) said the convention provides a good platform for some of those recruits who are speaking during the next three days. They include former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin and Massachusetts nominee Elizabeth Warren.

“I certainly think it’s great for them, but I also think it’s great for the country to see the kind of quality candidates and what they are talking about in their home states,” Murray said.

Cecil broke down the competitive map into three categories: Democratic incumbents, Democratic-held open seats and Republican-held seats. The 11 states highlighted are “where we see the largest amount of spending, where we see the most activity.”

The Democratic incumbents in targeted races are Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Bill Nelson (Fla.). The Democratic-held open seats are in Virginia, Wisconsin and North Dakota, all three of which are tossups. And the Republican-held seats mentioned were those of Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, as well as the open seats in Arizona and Indiana. Cecil said the open GOP seat in Arizona has been slow to develop because of the late primary, and Indiana is on the map thanks in part to missteps by Republican nominee Richard Mourdock.

Cecil said the DSCC is still watching Nebraska, which Republicans are favored to pick up. He did not mention the open GOP seat in Maine, where former Gov. Angus King (I) is favored.

“In many cases, these races are really just getting engaged, candidates are just getting on the air, and we expect that spending on the other side will maintain if not increase in disparity in a number of our races,” Cecil said.

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh said Charlotte “is the land of wishful thinking for national Democratic campaign strategists this week,” as the country is focused on rising debt, growth in government and unemployment stuck above 8 percent.

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